Profile with Deborah Ely
The Pathways Foundation is an organisation perfectly aligned with my own values of sustainability, equity and integrity and I’m delighted to join the board as the company moves forward following the tough period of the pandemic. Over my forty-year career I have worked as a curator and senior manager in the cultural and education sectors in the UK, Europe, USA and Asia. Leadership in the arts has required me to negotiate the space between artists and audiences, bringing ideas to life for people of all ages and generating life-changing experiences.
After fifteen years I have recently stepped down as CEO of Bundanon in the Shoalhaven, NSW, an arts organisation dedicated to supporting artists from all over the world and fostering creative opportunities for children and local communities. Bundanon’s art collection is of national significance, and its iconic landscape is reflected in artworks held in art museums across the globe. The 1000-hectare property is a wild-life sanctuary, host to many archaeological sites and supporting traditional Indigenous cultural practices.
At Bundanon I learned how immersion in the arts and the landscape, and exposure to strong leadership models, is transformative for young people and adults alike. Witnessing children realise their own capacity, as independent thinkers and artists in-their-own-right, was incredibly rewarding. However, watching a person in the later years of their life begin to embrace their ability to express themselves, perhaps for the first time, was a joy.
My work has taken me around the world and enabled me to develop skills in advocacy, strategic visioning, financial and risk management and fundraising, with a good deal of exposure to all levels of Government, as well as benefaction, along the way. It has taught me to listen deeply and always seek to understand where others are coming from before I jump in. I have a deep commitment to organisations and programs which seek to develop individual agency and encourage responsibility for ourselves and others. I hope to be able to make a tangible contribution to the future of Pathways as it expands its inspirational programs over the coming years.
My Experience with Pathways
“My son and his father attended Pathways a few years ago and they were both very clear that we ensure that my daughter and I also experience the journey of Pathways. So, after years of anticipation, we excitedly but somewhat apprehensively journeyed to beautiful Kangaroo Valley, with no expectations. We are so grateful for what we found there . . . .
In a world where we are more connected than ever, and yet so disconnected; where social media is loud and opinions about how to support a child through to adulthood are strong; Pathways was a place where I found refuge, where I learnt more about supporting my girl, and where I grew confidence in what I have to offer as a Mum.The awesome leaders brought deep wisdom, gentle discernment and strong conviction.The beautiful Mums brought tenderness, non-judgemental acceptance and a fierce love for their daughters. The young girls brought youthful energy, enthusiasm, willingness, and an understanding beyond their years. This brought a great hope for me, that the world is in wonderful hands and all will be ok!
In a supported and very firmly held environment, we opened difficult conversations. I feel far more confident that my daughter will happily bring the bigger worries to me, as the foundation for authentic honesty is now firmly laid. I know that she is well-equipped to trust herself in tricky situations, to seek genuine friendships and to create the life that she dreams. I have confidence to let go and support her into adulthood with love, trust and hope.
The location was stunning. We honoured and acknowledged the traditions of our first nations people who came before us. I felt a deep connection with the land and how it holds us, in a way I’ve never experienced before. A deeper gratitude was born within me.
The vegetarian meals were absolutely delicious and the cooks were so willing to work joyously with all dietary needs!
This is an experience for which I am unable to really express my gratitude. Years of learning and wisdom have been invested into creating the Pathway program, so it really touches on the important issues that every young woman faces. Thank you Pathways, for the commitment you have made to support and honour the girls and women in our society.”